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Who Discovered Cannabis First? The Cannabis History Timeline of Africa & America



Did you know that the roots of today’s cannabis culture can be traced back to the African continent from hundreds of years ago? According to Dr. Chris Duvall, author of The African Roots of Marijuana, the forgotten history of global cannabis culture continues to have contemporary influence, writes Timothy Harris.

“Africa is ignored in the collective historical narrative,” Duvall writes. “More important, the nonportrayal of Africa intellectually justifies notions that drug use is a racially determined behavior.

The collective narrative, being unconstrained by evidence of the plant’s African past, enables anti-Black, racial stereotypes about cannabis drug use. In the United States, one outcome of these stereotypes is biased drug-law enforcement.”

In his book, Duvall investigates questions of where cannabis came from, and who first smoked it. We learn that no, contrary to stereotype, neither Rastafarians nor hippies had anything to do with the origins of cannabis use or cultivation.

In fact, if you look back far enough into history, you’ll learn that cannabis arrived in Africa about 1,000 years ago, by way of south Asia.

But before we dig into the African roots of cannabis culture, let’s identify our terminology. In the scientific community, there are two genetic groupings of cannabis plants: Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa.

This distinction is actually where we get the terms for the effects of your favorite strains, though the taxonomic names have nothing to do with that. Scientists use the name Cannabis indica for plant groupings that have psychoactive qualities and Cannabis sativa — sometimes just called “hemp” — for those that do not.

When your budtender says a particular strain is “indica” or “sativa,” they are referencing the “folk meaning” of those terms, not the formal names of these genetic groupings of cannabis plants.

This article is focused on Cannabis indica, meaning psychoactive cannabis, more broadly (as opposed to a strain that might make you extra sleepy).

From an evolutionary standpoint, Cannabis indica originated around the Hindu Kush mountains (yes, the Kush Mountains) in southern Asia. Around 4,000 years ago, people in this region processed cannabis in two ways: for resin, called charas, and for the flowers.

Indeed the original Hindi word for cannabis flower, dating back at least 3,000 years, was “ganja.” Sound familiar?

At this point in history, the production of ganja in southern Asia is some of the most compelling early evidence of harvesting cannabis buds in particular, although they were mostly consumed in the form of edibles, like bhang, a smoothie-like concoction popular in India and in Hindu mythology.

Dr. Duvall studies historical names for cannabis to trace the movement of the plant, and found that it entered Africa from the east.

This is where it gets good. Cannabis edible culture developed into a smoking culture.

“People discovered that their preexisting technologies of smoking transformed the plant drug, changing it from a slow-acting edible drug into a fast-acting, easily-dosed pharmacological agent,” Duvall writes.

Once in Africa, different names for cannabis started to show up regionally. One such name that is still used today is “hashish.” This word came into use in Egypt by 1200 and colloquially translated to “the herb.”

As cannabis spread to western Africa, the names for cannabis changed, and one very important term for modern cannabis appeared in historical literature.

The existing documentary records that researchers work from were primarily written by European colonizers who weren’t very interested in understanding African culture or Bantu languages.

For example, an Englishwoman in Sierra Leone circa 1847 wrote about cannabis (not yet realizing it was a distinctive plant) as a “tobacco of poisonous-smelling qualities.”  This wasn’t out of the ordinary, however, as Europeans mis-reported many of the African words for cannabis as “tobacco” quite frequently “probably because they did not know or care what Africans were smoking,” Dr. Duvall writes.

“Europeans widely called cannabis ‘African tobacco,’ ‘Angolan tobacco,’ and ‘Congo tobacco’ to distance their own smoking practices from African ones.” (Regarding the term “Congo,” it’s important to recognize that slavers created this word as a catch-all to describe various ethnic groups of West Africa.

Prior to slavery, “Congo” did not designate any cultural, linguistic or ethnic group.)

Beyond Europeans’  inaccurate records regarding cannabis use among Africans at the time, there is added obscurity in the historical record because of the long-standing stigma associated with cannabis use.

There are at least two recorded instances, particularly by “Afro-Brazillians,” using the Portugese words “tabaco,” meaning tobacco, and “fumo,” meaning smoke, in order to intentionally disguise their cannabis use. (In a sense, asking if someone “smokes” is, and has been, a universally understood way for cannabis users to discreetly recognize each other.)

Despite, however, the poor record-keeping and intentional ambiguity, Dr. Duvall has pieced together enough evidence from what Europeans wrote to show that people in west Africa referred to cannabis as either riamba, liamba, diamba or iamba — pronounced “jamba.”

The prefix ma- was added to words to show pluralism, just like how in English we add an -s to indicate multiples.

“The plural marker ma- was used historically to mean ‘some,’ so ma-riamba would be ‘some cannabis to smoke,’” Dr. Duvall tells Civilized.

Hence, “mariamba” is where the word “marijuana” comes from. The word “marijuana” as we know it today didn’t appear until 1846 in Farmacopea Mexicana, though it was spelled “mariguana.” In most following instances, the word was spelled marihuana.

This word cognate group riamba, liamba, diamba and iamba appeared in writing in Brazil by 1839. But how exactly did a Bantu word cross the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to the Americas? Around this time, millions of Africans were captured as slaves and taken across the ocean.

Captive Africans are responsible for bringing centuries-old cannabis culture and knowledge to the Americas. But, it wasn’t a direct path to the United States.

You might be wondering if slaves taken directly to the modern day U.S. brought cannabis knowledge with them. Perhaps. But of the 10.7 million slaves known to have survived the trans-atlantic voyage, fewer than 400,000 (or less than four percent) were taken directly to North America.

So now you might assume that migrants from South and Central America to the U.S. are responsible for bringing cannabis to the States. However, that’s not the case, either. But what these migrants did bring is the knowledge of cannabis as a smoked drug.


There is archaeological evidence of Africans using water pipes made from clay or large gourds as early as 1600, specifically for smoking cannabis.

More simplistic than that, even, the basic understanding of cannabis anatomy and the chemical properties of the flowers is owed to Africans hundreds of years back. Bongs, buds, pipes and even the words we use to talk about cannabis have clear roots outside of the U.S..

Modern cannabis culture is a direct result of the staunch transmission of tradition through generations. Cannabis is global, it doesn’t belong to anyone, and it’s important we start treating everyone equally, considering that notion.

Cannabis was already present in the United States. The plant arrived via European settlers who had traded with Asia and Africa and was most often meant to be used as a medicine.

But, the trading of cannabis plants between continents often excluded the trading of cannabis knowledge, thus most cannabis-based products at the time were prepared improperly and were virtually useless and certainly non-psychoactive.

An 1862 issue of Vanity Fair contains an ad for “hasheesh candy” to cure nervousness, weakness, melancholy and confusion of thoughts. 

“For the most part, people in Europe and North America had no knowledge or understanding of getting high from cannabis,” says Duvall. “And so marijuana, that term, but also the use of the plant as a smoked drug, shows up early in the 1900’s in the United States.” 

Migrants, brought to the United States as laborers, also brought with them cannabis smoking culture.

“Cannabis literature has built up this ‘race’ and ‘racial’ narrative but it neglects the role of ‘class,’” Duvall says. “Historically, the people who used and relied upon cannabis were the people who were ‘down and out,’ people who were in marginalized social classes…those are the people who really found value in cannabis.” 

A 2013 federal survey revealed that this trend is still apparent today — those in lower social classes tend to use cannabis at a higher rate. Cannabis has always been used by those most needing therapeutic relief, both physically and mentally. 

African cannabis culture and knowledge arrived to the U.S. via migrant workers from South and Central America, as well as via sailors from Africa in the late 1800s. The arrival of cannabis to the U.S. via black and brown folks is undoubtedly, part of the basis of historically racist drug law enforcement.

In fact, Dr. Duvall says that the “j” in the word “marijauna” arose from “American English discourse that tagged the plant drug Juana to strengthen portrayals of its unsavory Mexicanness in the early 1900s.”

Popularly, Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics, is portrayed as a mastermind behind the plan to target minorities by criminalizing cannabis use. However, truthfully, Anslinger was mostly concerned about opiates. 

It is true that Anslinger was largely responsible for cannabis prohibition policy-wise. The U.S. formally outlawed cannabis with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, but several other nations, including Mexico (1920), Greece (1890), and South Africa (1870), had already banned cannabis use.

The U.S. was not the first to adopt totalitarian cannabis laws. In 1877, the sultan of Turkey even ordered that all cannabis be confiscated and destroyed across the nation. 

Global controls on cannabis began in 1925, when the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations, held its second conference on international drug control. A handful of African nations sought to add cannabis to the breadth of global drug control. 

“They had their various reasons for doing that, but that move is what made it so that Anslinger really had ground to say, ‘Let’s consider cannabis more broadly than just these state and local ordinances that exist in the U.S. at the time. This is a global issue.’ That’s what really made it so that he could include cannabis in U.S. drug laws,” Dr. Duvall said. 

Beyond global discussion of cannabis, Anslinger was able to outlaw cannabis use because it was commonly associated with two highly vulnerable populations: Black jazz musicians and Mexican immigrants. The problem with racism and cannabis in the U.S. is systemic. It is, and always was, bigger than just one person. 

“United States law enforcement has been racist since it was founded. Drug-law enforcement has been racist since it was founded,” said Dr. Duvall. 

What is the cause of the misinformation? Most of the literature available covers the 1960s-70s, Anslinger and the U.S. exclusively, ignoring the rest of global history. 

“We often lose perspective of how cannabis existed around the world,” Dr. Duvall said.

Nearly 100 years after the beginnings of global cannabis control, the world is finally seeing a shift. In the United States, 11 states and Washington DC have legalized cannabis for adult use, and 33 states allow for medicinal use. In Mexico, Greece and South Africa — some of the first nations to outlaw cannabis — the laws are changing, too. Greece and South Africa both allow for some cannabis use.

Mexico is currently in the midst of nationwide drug law reform which will likely include cannabis decriminalization at some level. Perhaps through globalization, the same process that brought the spread of prohibition, a wave of legalization will supercede these antiquated paradigms. 



Labat and Leaf Botanicals Relationship Ends in Tears; N Cape Cannabis Producer Pulls Out of Deal with JSE Company



Unresolvable issues around value and quality

Northern Cape organic cannabis grower Leaf Botanicals has pulled out of its share deal with JSE-listed Labat Africa and wants out. That’s emerged after Labat, which owns 80% of Leaf Botanicals, posted an announcement on SENS to its shareholders on 17 March 2022 that there was a “quality issue” behind the breakdown.


Both sides seemed equally unhappy with their year-long marriage, with Upington-based Leaf Botanicals pulling the plug because of financial disappointment, and Labat saying the flower was not good enough for its international customers. Labat has gone looking for production elsewhere, picking up 80% of Eastern Cape grow op, Sweetwaters for R10 m – for which it paid cash. Leaf Botanicals’ intentions going forward have not been made public.


The company said the “Leaf Botanicals acquisition was terminated due to Leaf Botanicals no longer wishing to pursue the transaction following the discovery that the product was not up to standard and the inability to find a suitable way forward. Following further discussions, the termination has been accepted by Labat.”


Van der Colff activated suspensive clause after sale value plummeted by 75%

Labat purchased 75% of Leaf Botanicals in May 2021 from award-winning farmer, Johannes van der Colff.

Labat paid R11,25 million for its equity in the SAHPRA-licensed facility and paid the Gog van der Colff Trust by way of 11 250 000 Labat shares, taking a bet that the Labat share price would go up. Well it didn’t. It is currently trading around 25c a share, which means the R11,25 m van der Colff was paid for giving up majority control of his operation is now worth a mere R2,8 m, 75% down on the value of the striking price.

Van der Colff’s got out the deal by activating a suspensive condition in the purchase agreement which allowed him to pull out if Labat was trading below R1.00/share for the 30 days before the first anniversary of the deal, which is imminent.  The issuing of his Labat shares is to be cancelled and those shares delisted.


Labat has endured a rocky ride so far, prospects are looking up

Labat has had a rocky ride as the mover with first advantage in the South African cannabis space. It paid for many of its acquisitions with Labat shares valued at R1.00/share. With the price languishing below 30c/share, those who accepted shares in return for giving up equity in their own businesses, have taken a haircut of 75% of the value of their shares.  Nonetheless Labat appears to have stabilized, and has again been out shopping

The post Labat and Leaf Botanicals Relationship Ends in Tears; N Cape Cannabis Producer Pulls Out of Deal with JSE Company appeared first on Cannabiz Africa.

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Gauteng Signs Township Act into Law; Calls for Entrepreneurs to Pitch Proposals to Industrialize Cannabis



New Act aimed at empowering community trade

The Gauteng government has invited entrepreneurs to come forward with commercial proposals for the provincial cannabis industrialization programme. It published the invitation in the Government Gazette on 29 April 2022, the same day that Premier David Makhura ratified the Township Economic Development Act (TEDA), aimed at empowering townships and informal settlements.


Agriculture MEC Parks Tau, who is in charge of the province’s cannabis strategy says TEDA’s benefits include:

cutting red tape by introducing model standard bylaws, 
providing targeted tax incentives to unlock capital formation and job-creating investments, and 
providing targeted funding and targeted procurement whereby 40% of government procurement from the Gauteng provincial government comes from companies in the TEZs.


Tau: Vaal River Smart City will be SA’s first real cannabis hub

Writing in the Sunday Times on 1 May 2022, Tau said TEDA was “ a welcome legislation to unleash the potential of the township cannabis and hemp sectors that will be fully licensed in the full hemp value chain and acting as gateways for the industry. This will make Gauteng a “green gold” mecca, as announced by Makhura, with the establishment in the Vaal River Smart City area of the country’s first cannabis hub focusing on cultivation of cannabis primarily for medical use and application”.

Tau said the implementation of TEDA would be done in conjunction with the private sector and community organizations. “TEDA is a whole-of-society call to action to build better townships and informal settlements reeling from the negative effects of the Covid-19 health and economic pandemic, the July 2021 civil unrest and the complex spillovers from the Russia-Ukraine war” he wrote.  

“Moreover, this requires the introduction of a solidarity economy through, for instance, a service delivery co-production for municipalities where enterprises and organisations such as stokvels and mutual benefit societies provide their own communities with goods, services and knowledge that meets the local community’s needs”.


Gauteng wants to form partnerships with private sector

The Gauteng Department of Economic Development and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development are championing cannabis reform as part of the province’s goal to create jobs and boost the economy by processing hemp and cannabis at an industrial scale.


Companies interested in partnering with the provincial government must take into consideration in their application that their proposals must include:

details of funding mechanisms, 
cannabis-driven carbon reduction, 
rehabilitation of compromised mining land, 
and the inclusion of communities as partners.


In return Gauteng says it will provide support for private sector partners by:

offering leases on state owned or controlled land;
providing rentals at special economic zones, industrial parks 
subsidies at private facilities;
financing partnerships, 
funding input and administrative costs 
facilitating collaborations with other state organs, aimed at removing barriers on projects.


Antony Moloto is the man riding point on the project. His contact details are below:

Email enquiries:

Queries: Mr Anthony Moloto 

Phone: 011 240 2684/ 083 408 5493 


Upload a completed form here with CV’s, BBBEE certificate /affidavit, tax clearance certificate and proof of CIPC registration as well as a proposal. Application inclusive of attached documents must be no longer than 20 pages. Please complete the checklist at the end of the application form.

The post Gauteng Signs Township Act into Law; Calls for Entrepreneurs to Pitch Proposals to Industrialize Cannabis appeared first on Cannabiz Africa.

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Now Musk’s Bought Twitter, Could This End The Cannabis Social Media Ban?



By Bruce Barcott, First Published in Leafly on 25 April 2022


Does this spell the end of cannabis prohibition on social media platforms?

Elon Musk has been an outspoken opponent of prohibition. Now he owns Twitter. 

What began as a fun what-if last week ended as a startling fait accompli this afternoon: Twitter has accepted Elon Musk’s $44 billion bid to buy the company. 

In the cannabis world, that deal could have profound ramifications. 

The Tesla founder has been famously outspoken about his belief in cannabis legalization. In late 2018, Musk lit up a joint on the Joe Rogan Experience, inhaled, and launched a million memes. 

In the summer of 2020, Musk added his voice to the chorus of those working to free America’s cannabis prisoners. 

“Selling weed literally went from major felony to essential business (open during pandemic) in much of America & yet many are still in prison,” he wrote. “Doesn’t make sense, isn’t right.” 

Musk isn’t so much an advocate as an ally. He’s not the guy who’s bankrolling state legalization campaigns; he’s the uber-bro with massive cultural influence who says, loudly: Prohibition is stupid!


And now he owns Twitter. At a purchase price of $54.20 per share. Ahem. 

Will that change things? 


What needs changing? 

Anyone who works in cannabis can tell you: Social media platforms do not play well with weed. The continued federal prohibition of marijuana makes the major platforms—Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok—extremely nervous. They often express that trepidation by blocking posts, enacting shadow bans, or deleting entire accounts. 


It’s hard to find a cannabis company that hasn’t been blocked or banned from at least one social platform.

It’s hard to find a cannabis company that hasn’t been blocked or banned from at least one platform at one time or another. 

Often the bans feel capricious. A post that seems utterly harmless can get flagged for violating a platform’s terms of service, while an edgier post can shine on with no trouble at all. ‘What did we do wrong? is an anguished cry that nearly every cannabis social media manager has shouted to the heavens. 

These mysterious cannabis policies exist on a spectrum. On the far side of strictness sits TikTok, which allows no cannabis content whatsoever. Don’t even try. The Google-owned YouTube can be tricky, but it allows cannabis content within reason. Then there’s Instagram and Facebook, both owned by the parent company Meta. Because of the nature of the cannabis audience, Instagram is currently the most important and influential platform, and also the one that gives social media directors absolute fits when it comes to cannabis content. 

Jungle Boys, one of the nation’s top cannabis brands, gave a wink to that situation earlier today: 


Will Musk change Twitter’s cannabis rules?

The platform Musk just purchased has a reputation as being one of the most liberal in its treatment of cannabis. There’s upside and downside to that. 

The upside is that Twitter is the best fit, culturally and temperamentally, with Musk himself. His public persona is much closer to that of the swashbuckling libertarian Jack Dorsey (Twitter’s founder) than to the aggressively flavorless Meta leader Mark Zuckerberg. 

If anything, we should expect Twitter’s cannabis policies to relax even further under Elon Musk. Consider this tweet he put out upon the acceptance of his bid this afternoon: 


Better gatekeeping, or an ugly free-for-all?

Musk’s championing of free speech could make Twitter the most 420-friendly platform—but it could also turn the entire Twitterverse into an ugly free-for-all of political propaganda, unchecked conspiracy theories, and hate speech. 

One year from now Twitter could be the social platform most welcoming to cannabis companies and consumers. But will cannabis companies and consumers want to appear on Twitter one year from now? 


It’s not just his company, it’s his voice

Beyond the changes he might enact at Twitter, Musk could change the environment for cannabis simply by virtue of his new role in the social media universe. After hearing about Musk’s bid over the weekend, I reached out to Arend Richard, the founder of WeedTube. Richard has been one of the leading advocates for social media freedom and fairness when it comes to cannabis. He founded WeedTube back in 2018 after finding himself blocked by YouTube for an innocuous cannabis post. Four years later the 420-friendly WeedTube is thriving, readying an ambitious new update to their app expected to launch later this summer. 

“As a cannabis business owner and influencer, Twitter has been relatively easy to work with,” Richard told me. “But I want to get in touch with Elon, because we need him to help bring awareness to the situation with Meta” and their platforms. 

Richard is currently gathering signatures on a petition demanding that Instagram reform its community guidelines “to treat all legally operating cannabis businesses equally.” 

The heart of the grievance? Unequal enforcement, according to the petition: 

“Instagram continues to suspend and delete the pages of licensed and legal cannabis companies for violation of their vague and outdated policy prohibiting “attempts by individuals, manufacturers and retailers to purchase, sell or trade” marijuana. This policy is not enforced equally, with large multi-state corporations being allowed to promote their products and locations, while smaller, independent operators lose access to their Instagram pages, which are essential marketing tools in 2022.” 


Influence others by eating their lunch

Can Elon Musk demand a change in the policies of Instagram? Of course not. This is a situation where he could force a change, however, by simply opening his arms to cannabis companies and then gaining ground on Insta. 

The Meta-owned giant has nearly ten times as many active monthly users as Twitter. Instagram is younger, hotter, and more hip. If a Musk-over of Twitter can change that perception and eat into that lead, Instagram could be forced to reconsider its stodgy and outdated cannabis policies. And that could lead to a change in the other Meta properties as well. 

There are no guarantees, but it could work. Elon Musk alone couldn’t force GM and Ford to start making electric cars. The success of Tesla forced them to follow his lead or become obsolete. Let’s see what he can do with social media.

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